For just the second time on the young season, a deafening cannon blast from beyond the left-field fence signaled a home win at AT&T Field on Monday night. Tough defense and timely hitting spurred winning pitcher Ethan Martin (1-0) and Chattanooga erased a forgettable first inning in a 5-3 win over Birmingham.
The Lookouts (6-6) fell into an early 3-0 hole in the first after three straight hits from the game’s first three batters. Martin surrendered four hits and a walk in the first frame, but blanked the Barons (6-6) over the next five innings.
Chattanooga chipped away at Barons starter Jose Quintana in the third inning. Singles from second baseman Jake Lemmerman and shortstop Rafael Ynoa produced the first Lookouts run of the game, while back-to-back two-run innings put the Looks’ on top midway through the evening.
A solo homerun from Pedro Baez, his first of the season, shortened the Birmingham lead to one run, and Travis Denker came around to score on a throwing error charged to shortstop Tyler Saladino to tie the game 3-3.
A two-run lead came the following when Lemmerman struck again for Chattanooga. A triple to the left-field corner scored Denker and Kyle Russell to push the Lookouts’ lead to 5-3.
The Barons threatened one last time in the seventh inning with Geison Aguasviva on in relief, but the double-play combination of Ynoa, Lemmerman and first baseman J.T. Wise ended Birmingham’s scoring chances. With just three errors on the season, one courtesy of a catcher’s interference call, Chattanooga’s defense came through in the clutch again.
“We press really hard on defense,” Lemmerman said. “Defense is like (manager) Carlos Subero’s pride and joy. He wants us to be the best defensive team in the league, and I’m sure in Minor League Baseball. We work hard on it and it shows on the field.”
Martin walked away with his first win of the season and Shawn Tolleson earned his third save of 2012 in two innings of relief.
“The biggest highlight of the night, going away from our defense, which has been great all year, was Ethan Martin,” Subero said. “When he gives up a walk and three runs in the first inning, knowing the Ethan from the past, he did not let that snowball. In the second inning he was still a little shaken with a couple of walks, but he was able to put up five zeros in a row. For me, that’s the highlight of development tonight.”
Southpaw Aaron Miller (1-0, 1.17 ERA) will get the start for the Lookouts Tuesday night in game three of the series.
Miller threw five innings against Jacksonville in his last outing, giving up just one hit while striking out 10 in his first win of the season. Simon Castro (0-1, 8.00 ERA) will take to the mound for Birmingham. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 at AT&T Field.